An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shitong tongshi 史通通釋

Feb 24, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Shitong tongshi 史通通釋 "Complete commentary to the Shitong" is the most important traditional commentary to Liu Zhiji's 劉知幾 (661-721) historical critique Shitong 史通 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907). The 20-juan long Shitong tongshi was written by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Pu Qilong 浦起龍 (1679-1762), courtesy name Ertian 二田, style Sanshan cangfu 三山傖父.

Pu hailed from Jingui 金匱 (modern Wuxi 無錫, Jiangsu) and passed the metropolitan examination in the age of 45 sui, which allowed him to be appointed to the post of teacher (jiaoshou 教授) of the Ziyang Academy 紫陽書院 in Suzhou 蘇州. In 1745 he retired and dedicted himself to the study of history and historiography. Except his commentary to the Shitong, Pu Qilong has also written the book Du Du xinjie 讀杜心解, which are notes on the poems of Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770).

Pu Qilong was not the first to write a commentary to the Shitong. There were a lot of older comments, like those of Guo Kongnian 郭孔延 (Shitong pingshi 史通評釋) or Wang Weijian 王維儉 (Shitong xungu 史通訓故), or that of the Qing-period historian Huang Zhilin 黃叔琳 (Shutong xungu bu 史通訓故補). Yet all these commentaries were not perfect, contained errors and omitted a lot of important information.

Pu finished his new commentary in 1752. It includes a very detailed explanation of all paragraphs with the help of quotations of primary and secondary literature. The commentary to some chapters, like Yigu 疑古 and Huojing 惑經 is nevertheless still not written with sufficient diligence and includes errors. Pu Qilong has furthermore dared to change the original text of the Shitong in some places, especially where Liu Zhiji quotes primary sources. In spite of these shortcomings, the commentary of Pu Qilong has become so important that most editions of the Shitong include the Shitong tongshi as a kind of integral part of the original text.

Some minor shortcomings in Pu Qilong's authoritative commentary were later amended by Chen Hanzhang 陳漢章 (Shitong bushi 史通補釋), Yang Mingzhao 楊明照 (Shitong tongshi bu 史通通釋補) and Peng Xiaoxian 彭嘯咸 (Shitong zengshi 史通增釋).

The Tongshi was first printed in 1752 by the Qiufangxin Studio 求放心齋. The most widespread edition is that in the series Sibu beiyao 四部備要, of the Taiwan shangwu press 臺灣商務印書館 from 1968 and the Shanghai guji press 上海古籍出版社 from 1978. The same house published a modern edition in 2009.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1516.
Liu Haibo 劉海波 (2016). "Pu Qilong Shitong tongshi tanxi 浦起龍《史通通釋》探析", Shilin 史林, 2016 (2).
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 251.